Un livre aussi décevant que Valley of Genius pouvait être étonnant. Kocienda a conçu un clavier, mais n’a visiblement pas appris à l’utiliser à bon escient. Des nombreuses répétitions aux métaphores hors de propos, en passant par les circonvolutions qui compliquent inutilement la chronologie, il faut batailler pour trouver les quelques pages éclairant les choix qui ont présidé à la conception de l’iPhone.

Bien sûr que les descriptions du quotidien du développeur sont captivantes. Comment ne pourraient-elles pas l’être, lorsqu’elles viennent des couloirs de l’Infinite Loop et des coulisses du Moscone Center ? Mais la prétention de Kocienda — établir les « sept principes » (comme les « dix principes » de Dieter Rams) de la « sélection créative » (comme la sélection naturelle de Charles Darwin) — est démesurée.

Comme un aveu, le sous-titre passe au premier plan de la couverture. Puisqu’il est difficile de vendre un guide de la « sélection créative », vendons un énième bouquin sur le prétendu « âge d’or de Steve Jobs ». Kocienda avoue pourtant n’avoir passé que quelques heures en compagnie de sa super-star de patron, et reconnaît que les sentences de Jobs bousculent sérieusement la pureté de ses « sept principes ».

Dès lors, son livre est vide de sens. Bref, j’attends toujours le Revolution in the Valley de l’ère iPhone…


Les sept principes de la sélection créative :

To begin this discussion, I have identified seven elements essential to Apple’s software success: 1. Inspiration: Thinking big ideas and imagining what might be possible 2. Collaboration: Working together well with other people and seeking to combine your complementary strengths 3. Craft: Applying skill to achieve high-quality results and always striving to do better 4. Diligence: Doing the necessary grunt work and never resorting to shortcuts or half measures 5. Decisiveness: Making tough choices and refusing to delay or procrastinate 6. Taste: Developing a refined sense of judgment and finding the balance that produces a pleasing and integrated whole 7. Empathy: Trying to see the world from other people’s perspectives and creating work that fits into their lives and adapts to their needs.

Sur les questions que l’on ne pose pas :

Steve figured that the best way to answer difficult questions like these was to avoid the need to ask them.

Sur Eazel :

My life would be different too. Before coming to Apple, I had a job at a startup called Eazel. Our goal was to create an easy-to-use Linux system suitable for everyday computing, a free software alternative to Apple Macintosh and Microsoft Windows. The company was led by programmers who worked on the original Macintosh in the 1980s, including Bud Tribble, the first software manager for the Mac, and Andy Hertzfeld, the software wizard whose graphical user interface code helped to set the Mac apart from the text-mode personal computers that were the norm of the time. These fellows were my heroes, and I joined the company to work with them. The elegance and simplicity of their Mac software was my main inspiration for wanting to become a programmer.

Sur les débuts du projet Safari :

Over time, Don and I began to understand and absorb the model Richard showed us. Look for ways to make quick progress. Watch for project stalls that might indicate a lack of potential. Cut corners to skip unnecessary effort. Remove distractions to focus attention where it needs to be. Start approximating your end goal as soon as possible. Maximize the impact of your most difficult effort. Combine inspiration, decisiveness, and craft to make demos.

De l’obsession bien connue de Steve Jobs pour l’e-mail :

Scott treated this as an enthusiastic affirmation, and he pressed ahead to close the deal. He referred to Steve’s fixation on email: Our CEO had continued sending email on a NeXT computer for several years after rejoining Apple because he thought the experience offered by his former company’s software was superior.

Sur la préparation des keynotes :

In later years, I would learn more about how Steve prepared for these big-splash product announcements. Three weeks or a month before the keynote itself, Steve would start rehearsing with portions of his slide deck in some venue at Apple, often in Town Hall, the auditorium on the Infinite Loop campus. Slowly, day by day, he would build the show by stepping through it as he wanted to present it at the keynote. This was one of Steve’s great secrets of success as a presenter. He practiced. A lot. He went over and over the material until he had the presentation honed, and he knew it cold.

Sur le choix de l’arrangement QWERTY pour le clavier virtuel de l’iPhone :

One legend swirls more persistently around the QWERTY design than all others: how its inventor developed the arrangement to slow down typists. This is correct, as far as it goes, but it focuses on the wrong thing. Given the limits of nineteenth-century technology and the need for a complex scheme to actuate a series of metallic keys to strike a page, a major problem was developing a system where the keys didn’t jam. The time it took to clear key jams was the real bane of speedy typists, so QWERTY was an excellent compromise between an efficient key arrangement for people’s fingers and the need for a typing apparatus to whirl and clack. The QWERTY layout actually helped people type faster.

De la fonction avant la forme :

Shallow beauty in products doesn’t serve people. Product design should strive for a depth, for a beauty rooted in what a product does, not merely in how it looks and feels. Form should follow function, even though this might seem like a strange notion for pixels on a screen, but it’s not if you believe the appearance of a product should tell you what it is and how to use it. Objects should explain themselves.

Sur la « sélection créative » :

With our Darwinian demo methodology, we had a huge advantage over artificially selecting breeders and the glacially slow accumulations of genetic improvements that drive natural selection. Working in software meant we could move fast. We could make changes whenever we wanted, and we did. We created new demos that were concretely and specifically targeted to be better than the previous one. We constructed Hollywood backlots around these demos to provide context and to help us suspend our disbelief about the often nonexistent system surrounding the feature or app that was the focus of our attention. We gave each other feedback, both as initial impressions and after living on the software to test the viability of the ideas and quality of the associated implementations. We gathered up action items for the next iteration, and then we forged ahead toward the next demo. I’ve given a name to this continuing progression of demo feedback next demo: creative selection.

Une conclusion purement téléologique :

A small group of passionate, talented, imaginative, ingenious, ever-curious people built a work culture based on applying their inspiration and collaboration with diligence, craft, decisiveness, taste, and empathy and, through a lengthy progression of demo-feedback sessions, repeatedly tuned and optimized heuristics and algorithms, persisted through doubts and setbacks, selected the most promising bits of progress at every step, all with the goal of creating the best products possible.